WASHINGTON — Rob Goldstone doesn’t quite understand what is fueling President Donald Trump’s relationship with Kanye West, but thinks social media followers have more to do with it than perhaps music itself.
Goldstone is the music publicist who instigated the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting between a Russian lawyer and top members of Trump’s campaign team, but he’s also got some insight into Trump’s experiences with rap and hip-hop musicians.
“I don’t know how many fans or followers Kanye and Kim [Kardashian] have, but I would say it is a lot, and maybe that plays into [Trump’s] psyche,” Goldstone tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” on SiriusXM. “I don’t know, but it is somewhere there in his subconscious.”
Goldstone’s recent book, “Pop Stars, Pageants & Presidents: How An Email Trumped My Life,” chronicles how he went from a music publicist disinterested in politics, to the center of a media storm, one that took him before Robert Mueller’s grand jury.
He has told the story many times in the media and before congressional committees. He was asked by his client, singer Emin Agalarov, to use connections with Trump to set up a meeting between a Russian lawyer and Donald Trump Jr. In the email, Goldstone wrote, “The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with [Emin’s] father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”
Trump Jr. responded, “if it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
Goldstone, though, says he was using a form of PR embellishment to land the meeting. Trump Jr. set it up, and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort joined in the meeting, but Goldstone says it was a bust. The lawyer ended up talking about Russian adoption.
He says he apologized to Trump Jr. at the end of the meeting and he said to him, “I just have no idea what that meeting was about.”
What triggered suspicion was when the story about the meeting broke in July 2017. At first, the Trump team described the meeting as about Russian adoption. But Trump Jr. later released the email chain showing that they thought that the lawyer would have dirt on Clinton.
Goldstone said he understands why Trump’s team offered shifting characterizations of the meeting. “I think that sometimes, in the rush to put things out, either you don’t think it through, or you think it through and decide not to tell it all,” he says. “It’s obviously one or the other. If someone had said to me what that meeting was about, I would have said it was about adoption. The question is, would I have thought enough to say what it was offered as.”
The revelations of the Trump Tower meeting upended Goldstone’s career, but the book has given him a chance to explain what happened to a wider audience. He said he was apolitical, and his connection to Trump goes back to when the Agalarovs helped him bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow in 2013.
In the book, he sheds some light on why Trump connected with figures in the music industry: He admired success.
Goldstone recalls a meeting he and Emin had with Trump before the campaign. Trump was “listening to rap music and showed me a platinum disc that he received. It was actually for the Mac Miller song ‘Donald Trump,’ and I remember him saying to me, ’94 million YouTube views and it is because it is called ‘Donald Trump.’ And I said to him, ‘Have you ever listened to the words to that song?’ And he said, ‘The words don’t matter. 94 million views and it’s because it is called ‘Donald Trump.'”
Goldstone also recalled being with Agalarov at a PGA event at Trump’s National Doral course in Florida when someone introduced Trump to the rapper Timbaland. After conversing for a bit and after Timbaland left, Trump asked Emin, “Who was that?”
“And Emin goes, ‘Timbaland.’ And Trump goes, ‘As in the boots.’ And I go, ‘As in the award-winning Grammy producer.’ And he went, ‘I have no idea who that it is.’ And I just think it is funny that they had this very animated conversation, and in my mind, I think, one of them thinks they are discussing boots, and the other one is talking about music. To me that sort of summed up the psyche of Donald Trump.”
Listen below as Goldstone also talks about going before the grand jury, and of a documentary being made about his experience.
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.